Working the Night Shift? How to Cope?
The mere mention of “Night Shift” conjures up horrific images of a nightmare. Unfortunately, night shifts are a part and parcel of today’s fast life in the working atmosphere - be it Call Centers, BPOs or even software companies, which need people working nights to provide technical expertise/troubleshooting for their clientèle abroad. On the brighter side, people working night shifts take home a heavier pay package.
Night shifts can have a negative impact on a person as they affect sleep patterns, eating habits. In the long run, nightshifts can cause physiological disorders like obesity, gastric problems, diabetes, backache, headache and infertility. Night shifts can also lead to psychological disorders like depression, fatigue, behavioral changes, mood swings, anxiety, frigidity and impotence. Drinking innumerable cups of coffee/tea adds to the problem of sleep irregularities.
The body secretes certain hormones like adrenaline, which it requires, to cope with stressful situations. These hormones are secreted more during the daytime and less during nights, and this is one of the reasons for night shifts taking a toll on a person’s physical and mental well-being. Furthermore, the secretion of an endocrine hormone called melatonin (commonly called “hormone of darkness”) by the pineal gland, which is very vital for the agility and alertness of mind and body, is hampered when one works at night, as darkness is essential for the optimum production of this hormone. The secretion of melatonin is at its highest in the middle of the night and then gradually lessens during the second half of the night. Unfortunately, a night shifter is up and about during these hours and this leads to further hormonal disturbances.
Night shifts basically call for a complete changeover in the biological clock as people working in the nights have to sleep during the daytime - (when their family members and other people are up and about and working) and work at nights (when their family members and the others are cozily snuggled in their warm beds) – a complete opposite in life styles. This necessitates a total change in thinking too, as one has to be alert at night. The job maybe very challenging and stimulating and the person would have to be in top form both physically and mentally to meet the day’s (night’s) challenge.
One needs to condition one’s mind to prepare for and accept the physiological changes that occur both in the body and mind when they accept a night shift job say at a call center.
For a person to be very alert, agile, positive and ready to face the night’s challenge at work, a few basic habits could be ingrained into the daily lifestyle of the person.
- The hours between 3:00AM and 6:00AM are the hardest to go through with, as this is the time when a person is at his/her sleepiest. Try to keep yourself mentally alert and active by keeping your most challenging work for this time slot.
- Listening to music (if your employer allows that), keeping your workplace well illuminated, beautifying it maybe with a cheerful and inspiring picture, or a vase with some beautiful flowers, would help in making you feel good about the work waiting for you.
- Keep a positive and smiling countenance with your colleagues and friends in the office. This could again go a long way in making you and the others feel cheerful and help establish an easy camaraderie within the team.
- Working on the computer for hours together could lead to eyestrain. Closing your eyes for a few seconds - say, maybe once every two hours, or rubbing your palms together and then holding them to your eyes would help relax strained eyes.
- Get up at regular intervals and walk about a little to continue feeling active.
- Practicing some relaxing breathing techniques could make you feel perked up and enthusiastic to work the night away.
- Try not to drink too much of coffee, tea or aerated drinks as these cause more harm than good.
- Try to increase your intake of fresh fruit juices.
- Try to begin your night’s work after a good, nutritious and filling meal, because you need the energy to meet your work requirements.
- Try not to eat very oily or spicy food as this coupled with the night’s sleepless state might increase stomach acidity. Once home, make sure you spend a little time with your near and dear ones generally exchanging news. This will help in keeping those very important familial ties at their best and of course, a happy person is a happy worker too.
- Have a light and nutritious breakfast before you retire to bed to catch up on your sleep. Try to avoid coffee or tea before you get ready to sleep, as this would hamper your sleep pattern.
- It is now scientifically proved that about 5 to 6 hours of deep sleep are sufficient to rest your body after a day of work. Since one is usually accustomed to a dark room at nights, you could try to make your room dark by having some thick drapes pulled or you could even tie an dark colored eye-band on your eyes to get sleep. Make sure your mattress is sensible and provides good support to your tired body.
- Just before sinking into dreamland, you could try to practice some simple yogic exercises like breathing techniques and Shavasana (both are very simple and easy to learn and would take only about 10 minutes of your time) these might help you sleep like a baby.
These small lifestyle changes could go a long way in making you a productive and friendly employee. Following stress-relieving techniques advocated by Yoga and other disciplines could help you cope better with night shifts.
Night shifts can raise risk of heart attacks and strokes by more than 40% Researchers analyzed the results of 34 studies involving two million people
<![if !supportLists]>Shift work can dramatically increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, warn researchers.<![endif]>
<![if !supportLists]>A study of two million people found shift workers are almost 25 per cent more likely to suffer.<![endif]>
<![if !supportLists]>Night shift workers run the highest risk of 41 per cent, says a study published on the British Medical Journal website bmj.com.<![endif]>
<![if !supportLists]>People working shifts also have higher levels of unhealthy behaviors such as eating junk food, sleeping badly and not exercising, which are linked to heart problems.<![endif]>
The latest study is the biggest analysis of shift work and likelihood of vascular problems including heart attacks, strokes and angina.Shift work has long been known to disrupt the body clock and be linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, but the overall impact on cardiovascular health has been unclear. A team of international researchers analyzed the results of 34 studies involving 2,011,935 people to investigate whether shift work was associated with major vascular events.
Shift work was defined as evening shifts, irregular or unspecified shifts, mixed schedules, night shifts and rotating shifts, and the studies also contained day workers or the general population for comparison.
Altogether 17,359 had some kind of coronary event, 6,598 had heart attacks and 1,854 had ischemic strokes caused by lack of blood to the brain.
These events were more common among shift workers than other people.Shift work was associated with a 23 per cent increased risk of heart attack, 24 per cent rise in coronary events and five per cent extra strokes.These risks remained consistent even after adjusting for factors such as study quality, socioeconomic status and unhealthy behaviors in shift workers.Night shifts were linked with the steepest increase in risk of 41 per cent for coronary events.However, shift work was not associated with increased death rates from any cause.
Daniel Hackam, Clinical Pharmacologist, Stroke Prevention & Atherosclerosis Research Centre (SPARC), London, Ontario, Canada, said the relative risks might appear modest, but millions of people do shift work which means the overall risks are high.He said screening programs could help identify and treat risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. ‘Shift workers should be educated about cardiovascular symptoms in an effort to forestall or avert the earliest clinical manifestations of disease’ he added.There has been mounting evidence that night shift working might boost cancer risk because of the disruption to the body clock and hormone production.Previous research found a link between night shifts and increased risk of breast cancer in women.
Working in night shift? Here's how to manage your sleep - http://www.rediff.com/getahead/slide-show/slide-show-1-health-working-in-night-shift-how-to-manage-your-sleep-better/20111107.htm
Shift Work: How to Handle Sleep, Life - http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/shift-work-how-to-handle-sleep-life
Have dinner at least 3 hours before the shift begins.
Reason: In 3-4 hours, the food is almost digested, even a reasonably heavy meal, so there’s less chance of you feeling heavy or drowsy.
After returning from work don’t jump into bed immediately. Sit and relax for a half hour, watch TV or read a book before going to sleep.
Reason: Your body needs some time to get into comfort mode; plus it will also give your body-clock some time to adjust.
Draw the curtains, shut out all light from the room before sleeping.
Reason: Most people’s bodies are programmed to stay awake during daytime; so sleep doesn’t come easily in the mornings.
A slightly audible drone in the room, like that of a whirring fan or the ac, can help induce deeper sleep.
Switch off your mobile phone and tell the family not to disturb you for 6 or 8 straight hours.
Reason: you require at least 3 to 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep to allow the body to be fully refreshed and recharged for another day’s work.
Soon after waking, go out for a brisk walk of about 30 minutes, everyday.
Reason: Brisk walking is known to boost your metabolism, recharge your lungs. Make it your staple dose of daily exercise
Restrict yourself to 2 or maximum 3 meals, none of which should be heavy. Remember these keywords: “High-fiber, Low-sugar, High-protein Low-fat’
Reason: Heavy meals, especially comprising high-fat foods like cheese, egg-yolk, red-meat, foods cooked/fried in fatty oils will tend to make you sluggish. Sugary foods/beverages will unnecessarily pile on the bulge as you get less
(unless you’re a cop or a nurse on night duty).
Go easy on sugary drinks, like colas, juices – just one should be enough during the whole 7-8 hours shift
Reason: working your lungs and the consequent surge of oxygen will charge you up for another 4-6 hours of work.
Leave your seat and walk every hour or so. Do simple stretching exercises if you can. Try this: Stand erect and then bend forward (slowly) as if to tie your shoe laces. Do not bend your legs while doing so.
Limit your tea/coffee intake – in the entire 24 hour cycle, one should have a fixed quantity (or less, but never more) of tea or coffee. During the nightshift, one should never exceed 3 cups. Even 3 is a little too much but in a stressful job such stimulants do keep you alert the whole time.
Reason: This is a great anti-oxidant and has many other benefits. It also leaves you feeling satisfied after the meal.
Reason: It is necessary to hydrate oneself during those 6 to 8 hours as the body loses moisture. If you neglect this aspect, the poor supply of water will result in dry, scaly skin, to begin with, which eventually turns to wrinkles. Warm water does wonders to your digestive system and skin.
Opt for forward change in shifts: If you have a choice of shifts, choose a shift that starts later, rather than before your current one. E.g. if you’re doing a night shift, the next shift should be one that starts early morning (if commuting is not an issue) rather than one starting in the afternoon and ending at night. Reason: This makes it easier for the body clock to adjust.
REASON: If you wish to remain fit despite the stress of working odd hours, it’s only smart to avoid things that will either slow you down or create unmanageable health issues.
Thanks & Regards
S. Sreenivasa Prasad Rao
Smiling, Sharing, Loving, Caring and Helping are my five main weaknesses